It's true that Hitchens musters a sort of qualified praise for the Democratic ticket ("the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience"). But the British-born, Oxford-educated Hitchens is unqualified in his disdain for the McCain-Palin ticket. Here's the magazine critic's assessment of Palin's cross-country rallying over the past couple of weeks:
The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: "What does he take me for?" Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party's right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama's position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.Ouch! As if that weren't bad enough, Hitchens has a few choice words regarding Palin's doing McCain's "dirty work" on the campaign trail:
[Last week's debate showed] Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience. McCain occasionally remembers to stress matters like honor and to disown innuendoes and slanders, but this only makes him look both more senile and more cynical, since it cannot (can it?) be other than his wish and design that he has engaged a deputy who does the innuendoes and slanders for him.One gets the impression from these passages that Sarah Palin -- who she is, what her function seems to be in this race, how she's carried herself since being nominated the Republicans' VP choice -- stands in Hitchens's mind for everything that's wrong with the Republican party today. Whereas selecting the infinitely more qualified Joe Lieberman (whom I disagree with fundamentally on the political issues but recognize as a capable and "experienced" leader) might have swung Hitchens toward McCain's camp, it's been Palin's selection that has left him wondering whether the Republican party is even invested in retaining its diminishing credibility to the American public.
I would point out that the Republicans' credibility has long been in tatters, not least because of the profound ideological gerrymandering that's gone into over thirty years of constituting the so-called "Southern Strategy." That method of wresting working-class whites in the South (and other agricultural/postindustrial regions in the US) away from the Democratic party has been responsible for the most horrifying and divisive political maneuvers in the past century: Willie Horton, "welfare queens," Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill, and anti-Arab sentiment. These discourses fall squarely on the shoulders of the Republican party, and Sarah Palin's career as a VP candidate is built on its foundations. Her entrance into the national political arena should come as no surprise, then -- it's the absurd yet unsurprising culmination of years of Republican ideological warfare in the form of moral haranguing, religious crusading, and racist/sexist scapegoating.
Despite Hitchens's shortsighted view of the situation, let's hope his wish that the American people will pronounce a resounding verdict against John McCain and Sarah Palin comes to fruition.